Je ne sais pas: A Guide for Languages

So far on this blog, we’ve covered steps to the study abroad process that are essential to the process. This week’s post is going to change that a bit. We’re going to talk about learning a foreign language.

If you’re like me, you took 4 years of foreign language in high school (I took French). If you’re like me, you enjoyed the language a lot in high school and maybe even took a few semesters of it in college to fulfill some of those pesky gen ed credits.

If you’re like me, you’ve become slightly embarrassed at how much of this language you’ve forgotten over the years.

We’re going to discuss 2 options for learning a language fast today: Duolingo and Rosetta Stone.

DuoLingo's longo.

Duolingo’s logo.

Duolingo, founded in 2011, is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. Duolingo’s main goal is, as users move through lessons, they become able to help translate websites and other documents. Duolingo offers a ton of languages, including:

  • Latin American Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Italian
  • Dutch
  • Irish
  • Danish
  • Swedish
  • Turkish

Duolingo also offers courses in American English for non-English speakers. When you create an account with Duolingo, you can choose which language you’d like to study. You can then either start with Basics I (if you identify yourself as a beginner) or take a placement exam.

Duolingo's homepage.

Duolingo’s homepage.

Its hard to see in the screenshot above, but Duolingo divides the language into categories, and you are meant to go through the categories in sequential order. After completing each unit (or section of categories), you test your skills. Duolingo places a lot of emphasis on written skills and dictation, with speaking being incorporated into higher level lessons.

One other interesting aspect of Duolingo is their “Language Incubator” section of their website. In this section, users can help create courses for Duolingo as well as connect with others who are passionate about similar languages as you. Duolingo has identified one of their goals with the Language Incubator program as being to preserve less popular languages like Latin, Mayan, and Basque. 

Overall, I believe that Duolingo is a great, free program for those who want to brush up their skills on a particular language. I would not recommend this for first-time learners of a language, as I’ve found that speaking practice is one of the most important aspects of first learning a language.

Duolingo also has apps for both Androids and iPhones, which are free.

Rosetta Stone

We’re going to take a more traditional route now and look at Rosetta Stone. Regardless of whether or not you’ve studied abroad or ever learned a language, you’ve probably heard of Rosetta Stone. The bright yellow boxes of software can be purchased at stores like Barnes & Noble or Target, or purchased from their website.

Rosetta Stone, like Duolingo, offers a variety of languages. Some notable choices include:

  • Arabic
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Korean
  • Latin
  • Persian (Farsi)
  • Swahili
  • Urdu
  • Welsh

Rosetta Stone does an excellent job at providing unique options, and I love that they have more diverse options as opposed to just those languages spoken in Europe and North America. Study abroad programs are offering more diverse program options, and Rosetta Stone reflects that.

The main disadvantage with Rosetta Stone is the cost. A 6-month subscription for Rosetta Stone Italian, for example, would cost you $169 for both the online subscription and the app. However, Rosetta Stone does offer a demo option as well as the option to gift a program.

Duolingo and Rosetta Stone both offer programs that will give you a well-rounded education about a particular program. If you are looking to brush up your skills or interact with a larger community, I would recommend Duolingo. If you are a first-time learner or have the money to spare, I would recommend Rosetta Stone.


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